WALDOBORO — For the second straight year, no one could keep pace with Robert Gomez over the hilly, rugged, grueling 13.1-mile course on Saturday, Sept. 25. The only difference in 2021 was there were fewer challenges to his road supremacy.

Gomez, 38, of Biddeford — a Midcoast native — was the first finisher among 12 participants in the annual Waldoboro Half-Marathon. He finished in one hour, 20 minutes and six-point-one seconds.

Laurie Nicholas, 53, of Gorham again was the first female finisher, as she was fifth overall in 1:49:17.0.

While Gomez just missed his course record of 1:19:17.9, Nicholas bettered her mark of 1:50:20.8 set last year. She also holds the women’s masters course record.

The course started at Moody’s Diner and ended at Odd Alewives Farm Brewery.

Kristyn Kleman. Photo by Zack Miller

Lucas McNelly, race director, said it was a “light crowd” this year, and many factors contributed to that, including the threat of thunderstorms, not many in-person races the past year-and-a-half due to the pandemic and other events being held on the same weekend.

“Race went off without a hitch,” he said. “Great weather. Great group of runners and volunteers.”

As the winners, Gomez and Nicholas received a $50 gift card to Moody’s Diner.

As always, after finishing the “hardest half-marathon” in New England, McNelly said, each runner earned a beer from Odd Alewives Farm Brewery.

Why does McNelly call it the “hardest” half-marathon? Following the lead of the Millinocket Marathon, he said he and others embrace a do-it-yourself ethos. Hence the motto of the Waldoboro Half-Marathon: “No Frills. Just Hills.” There are no bands on the course, no expo and no official water stations.

McNelly said Waldoboro is built on hills. Lots of hills. The Waldoboro Day 5-kilometer generally is considered one of the toughest 3.1-mile runs in Maine. But that does not have any of the hard hills, he said. To truly run Waldoboro, one has to run the big hills. Thus, the Waldoboro Half-Marathon: the hardest road half-marathon in New England (and, he would argue, the Eastern United States).

“We think it’s one of the hardest in the country and probably has the hardest finish,” he said.

McNelly said event organizers fit as many hills as they could in 13.1 miles without having to cross Route 1. In fact, they crammed roughly 1,400 feet of elevation into 13.1 miles — 550 feet of elevation in the final 3.5 miles — to take one to their limit.

There are seven hills with a gradient of at least 10 percent, including two in the final mile. Forty-five percent of the course is uphill.

One also has to qualify to participate in the Waldoboro Half-Marathon.

The qualification standards were: half-marathon: 2:15. 15-miler: 2:35. 30K: 3:20. 20-miler: 3:35. Marathon: 4:40.

“This is not so much to keep people out as it is to make sure everyone who starts the race can finish it,” McNelly said.

The individual results from the 2021 half-marathon were: 1, Gomez, 38, Biddeford, 1:20:06.1; 2, Derek Barnett, 34, Jefferson, 1:35:30.3; 3, Darren Winchenbach, 40, Saco, 1:43:18.8; 4, Julian Killough-Miller, 30, Oakham, Mass., 1:48:11.9; 5, Nichols, 53, Gorham, 1:49:17.0; 6, Jill Hempen-Anthony, 46, Newburyport, Mass., 1:57:19.1; 7, Tim Harkins, 53, Bath, 2:03:04.5; 8, Jim Flanagan, 41, South Portland, 41, 2:03:33.4; 9, Kristyn Kleman, 31, Bristol, 2:06:40.8; 10, Dale Turner, 65, Waldoboro, 2:07:28.5; 11, Jonathan Goshea, 46, Richmond, Va., 2:21:19.2; and 12, Mary Smith, 55, Cushing, 2:25:03.7.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.